Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Presenting the Fury of...erm...Fury!

I missed yesterday's update, but I won't apologize because I was gaming.

From the early days (art by Mike Cogliandro)
So, about the Alamo Defenders...

I got into superhero games more or less at the same time I started reading and accumulating (you can't call what I do "collecting") comics.  The first Champions game I remember playing in was originally hosted at ComicQuest, my friendly local pusher game and comics store.

(Randall from RetroRoleplaying: The Blog was a part owner of the shop and co-GMed the first campaign I played in.  He had a disagreement with the other co-GM and the game ended up moving to a series of venues, pretty much whoever had room to host it.  Since we all lived with our folks, it was a sporadic game at times.)

I don't actually remember the specifics of how the campaign kicked off, so I later retconned the history when I co-opted it for a later campaign.  Here's what my notes say:

The Alamo Defenders
The group known as the Alamo Defenders began in 1983 as a chance meeting of three superheroes trying to avert the desecration of the Alamo by the villainous Geodesics.  Spectrum, Fury, and Mechanix, joined by Vanadium soon after, formed the core of the group for the next ten years.  In that time, the Defenders were recruited into AmTek's Strikeforce program and operated under that banner for most of their careers.  They played a pivotal role in the second Krell war, faced down some of the Earth's most dangerous villains, and kept San Antonio and South Texas as safe as they possibly could.

It's a nice summary of an early campaign that I vaguely remember some details from nearly thirty years on.  The setting was intentionally vague, with lots of villains from the Champions Enemies books.  Chris (the other GM) had moved to San Antonio from Phoenix, where he'd played in a massive (involving upwards of two dozen players) Champions campaign run out of Flying Buffalo's retail shop.  Chris took the background from that campaign and simply set up a new "franchise" in San Antonio.

Eventually, Chris took a break from GMing and I ended up running the game, the first of many, many supers campaigns I've run over the years.  Eventually real life intervened and the players ended up going separate ways, but you never forget your first great campaign.

Fast forward to 1993 (or, as I say with some dread, eighteen years ago).  I was looking to create a new setting for a four-color Champions campaign.  While I was straining my brain to come up with something different, I ran across Scott Bennie's "New Columbians" setting (which later saw print as Gestalt: the Hero Within, a sourcebook I HIGHLY recommend).  The idea of a group of supers having to fill the shoes of their seniors isn't exactly new, but it's got a lot of roleplaying appeal.  At the same time, I chanced across some write-ups of the early Defenders' exploits, which got me thinking, What if this had kept going? Where would they be now?

Two days later, I had a campaign background roughed in.  A few months later, I moved to Houston, and after a failed initial attempt to get a campaign off the ground, I offered The New Defenders.  While I wouldn't say it took off like a rocket, we did get through fourteen sessions, which is fairly respectable.  More importantly, I made some friends through that campaign who helped me get through my first few (very rocky) years in Houston and whom I still treasure to this day.

In the next few posts, I'll detail bits of the New Defenders setting and share my adventure summaries.

But first, another one of the founding members of the original team, in all his glory.

There's a reason I don't draw these from scratch.

Fury (Created by Perry Smith, used with permission)
Marc Sinclair

Prowess  2
Coordination  3
Strength  2
Intellect  7
Awareness  5
Willpower  8

Stamina  10
Determination  1

  Drive Expert
  Stealth Expert
  Mental Resistance Master

  Mental Blast 8
  Mind Control 6
  Sleep 6
  Telekinesis 4

  Catchphrase : "Leave Me Alone!"
  Motivation : Guilt
  Identity : Marc Sinclair, Known Superhero

  Enemy : Embryo
  Personal : Goes Temporarily Blind When Stamina Drops Below 3
  Social : Distinctive Appearance (White Hair, Scarred Face, Eyes Glow When Power In Use)
  Bad Luck

Point Total  59


Depending on who asks him, Marc Sinclair will tell any number of stories regarding the origin of the powers he wields as Fury.  His favorite, of course, involves Keith Richards, a gallon of homemade vodka, and a rogue KGB agent.  Then there’s the one about the time-travelling space monkeys and their ship made of hot dog wrappers.

The truth is only a little bit less odd…

In 1974, Marc Sinclair was a student at the University of Texas.  Like most college students, he was constantly broke.  So it should come as no surprise that he helped finance his education the same way so many other students do – he sold his body for medical experiments.

One such experiment required him to be injected with an experimental drug known simply as Lot 49.  The professor conducting the experiment had no way of knowing that this drug was actually a leftover by-product of a Viet Nam era biowarfare study, all he knew was that the project was very well funded and his patrons wanted results quickly.

But they didn’t materialize.

The experiment was classified a failure, the funding quickly pulled, and the results, such as they were, buried in governmental red tape.  Marc went on with his life for the next five years.  Always a rebel, he found and embraced the punk music scene.  He also committed the occasional petty larceny and consumed his share of illicit substances.

It was after an all-night binge of slam-dancing and Speed that he got the first indication that something was wrong.  As the drugs and adrenaline worked their way out of his system, he crashed.  Hard. Harder than ever before.  And just to make matters worse, his vision initially blurred, then went black altogether.  He panicked, and knocked himself out when he stumbled into a doorframe in his struggles.

When he woke, he found his vision restored.  Approximately four seconds after that, he learned what everybody in the surrounding block was thinking, as their thoughts flooded his mind.  This time, instead of panicking, he lashed out…

And promptly went blind again.

But the thoughts stopped for the most part, as everyone in surrounding block suddenly decided a nap was a very good thing.

By now, Marc had a pretty good idea of what was going on.  He was manifesting psionic powers.  He didn’t know why he had them, but he knew he had to get them under control or they would kill him.  Packing up a few things, he hopped on his motorcycle and headed for the wide open spaces of the west.

Three years later, he returned to civilization.  His hair completely white now, he still looked every inch the angry punk he used to be.  But three years had taught him how to use his powers and allowed him to grow up a bit.  Will still no law-and-order type, he figured that whoever did this to him was still out there and that he’d be better off with the law behind him if he ever caught up with them.

He joined the fledgling Defenders and made a mark as the team cynic and rebel.  Things went pretty well for a while, then they went entirely to Hell.

But That’s A Story For Next Issue, True Believer!

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Blast From The Past

OK, after that brief diversion, it's time to get back to that which earned me a half-dozen new followers in the month of July:  ICONS and Superheroes!

Tonight, I present my oldest, and longest running Champions character, in ICONS terms.  Leader of the Alamo Defenders, a hero through and through, you're radioactive pal, ladies and gentlemen, Spectrum!

Sam Curtis, Ph.D.

Prowess  4
Coordination  5
Strength  3
Intellect  6
Awareness  4
Willpower  6

Stamina  9
Determination  2

  Leadership Expert
  Aerial Combat
  Science Expert (Physics)

  Blast 8 (Blasting)
  Blinding 4
  Force Field 5
  Flight 6

  Epithet : Your Radioactive Pal
  Identity : Dr. Sam Curtis
  Motivation : Protective Of Normals
  Connections : Lady Starlight

  Personal : Highly Radioactive Outside Of His Containment Suit
  Enemy : Leech
  Social : Walking Radiation Hazard
  Personal : Retired

Point Total  56

Caught in a lab accident, Professor Sam Curtis found himself imbued with the ability to manipulate light and soar above the clouds.  But these powers were not without their price: Sam's body was transformed into a living nuclear reactor.  Donning a suit to protect the world from his deadly radiation, Sam became Spectrum.

Shortly after beginning his career, Spectrum met two other fledgling superheroes, Fury and Mechanix. Joining together, they formed the Alamo Defenders, and soon became one of America's foremost superhero teams.  Over time, thers joined their cause and their victories became legendary.

But all good things must come to an end, and the tale of the Defenders is no exception.  Today, Sam Curtis spends his days in the laboratory, seeking to reverse the process that gave him his powers.  Her remains cordical with the local superhero community, but it would take an emergency of extreme magnitude to get him back in the saddle.

Tomorrow:  The history of the Alamo Defenders and the Enigmatic Fury!

Friday, August 26, 2011

His Name Is Moog Joogular

I've been fairly remiss in posting lately.  Work has been getting steadily worse, and I just don't have the energy to spend on being creative and interesting.

However, it's not all gloom and doom.  This week saw the release of release of Kagan McLeod's utterly amazing Infinite Kung Fu in 450+ page collected form.  Originally self-published in a limited run, it is, simply, the GREATEST KUNG FU COMIC EVER MADE.

(I do not exaggerate.  I have read every issue of "Iron Fist", "Power Man and Iron Fist," and "Master of Kung Fu" ever published and not even their combined power can equal the sheer magnitude of a single chapter of Infinite Kung Fu.)

How to describe this comic?  Well, first off, it's beautifully illustrated.  McLeod is an award-winning graphic artist whose work appears in glossy magazines you see in supermarkets, doctors' offices, and hair salons.  IKF is rendered in gorgeous black and white art that evokes classic Chinese brush paintings, manga, and (for lack of a better artistic reference) "The Venture Bros."  Yeah, it's weird, I suppose, but it's a unique artistic "voice" and it works spectacularly.

Then there's the story.  It's one part post-apocalyptic zombie horror, four parts Shaw Brothers martial arts extravaganza and about a dram of the finest Blaxploitation ever decanted from the private stock of Melvin Van Peebles.  The world is out of balance.  The dead refuse to enter the cycle of reincarnation and would rather occupy a freshly dead corpse than run the risk of coming back as a cockroach.  The Eight Immortals have nearly failed, as one of their students is dead, and five have been corrupted, wielding Poison Kung Fu with horrid efficacy.  Only Lei Kung, a most unlikely student with the help of the one remaining uncorrupted student (more about him in a moment) stands even a chance of making things right.  But what is right? 

The whole thing is a love letter to all that is wonderful about old school kung fu cinema.  It's even got a forward by Gordon Lau.  If that fact means anything to you, GO PICK UP THIS BOOK.

Oh, that last uncorrupted student?  That would be this righteous dude.  Master Moog Joogular.  He's the ass-kicking mayor of Funkytown, brothers and sisters.

Seriously, if this sounds at all like your thing but you're still unsold, you can check out the first 200 pages for free here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Tonight, I got to unveil Wei Sha-Li at the gaming table.  All in all, a dedicated martial artist is a lot more fun to play than a creepy mad scientist.  Part of the fun (for me at least, and the other players and GM seemed to dig it) was coming up with interesting (some might say crazy) ways to say "I punch him."  Even when one consumes a steady diet of kung-fu movies, t's harder than it looks.  Fortunately, I had some help.

Back when I originally pitched the adventure idea for ICONS that became "Sins of the Past," I also planned on writing a second adventure called "Triad of Doom." It was going to be a comic book martial arts extravaganza.  Unfortunately, I got bogged down and never completed it.  But one thing I did manage to finish was this:

Click to Embiggen
Behold, the Random Martial Arts Moves/Schools Table.  Just roll a couple of d6, cross index as needed, mix, and match.  Instant kung-fu insanity.  Just tonight, I use the Invisible Spirit Fist (defined as hitting the guy without appearing to move), the Northern Stone Talon, and the titular Octagonal Yang Meditation (which is apparently a sword technique).  In between rounds, I'd roll to figure out what the next move was called, then come up with a description.  It seemed fairly non-intrusive, and it was a hell of a lot of fun from my perspective.  I think I'll have to keep it handy should I ever get another Feng Shui game off the ground.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Character, But Not For ICONS

Honestly, I've not been in a supers mood lately and I was a little bummed that no one rose to my challenge last week.

Anyway, my Tuesday night group is shifting gears this week and going back to Adventure!.  "The Coming Thing" uses the standard rules, but is set in the 1890s, mostly in and around San Francisco.  My original PC for the game really didn't work out.  I envisioned a kind of creepy mad scientist thing, and it just didn't work for me (he ended up too creepy and the mental powers he had really weren't as potent as I'd hoped.  As I wasn't having much fun with him, I took my return to fencing as a way to sit out about a month of game sessions.  Unfortunately, it was too damned hot for me to get back into any semblance of shape (and still is).  So, with the group returning to the campaign, I decided to come up with a new character.

While I haven't been in the mood for supers, I have been in the mood for Wuxia and martial arts stuff.  And one of our early exploits in this campaign had a "Big Trouble in Little China" feel to it.  So, I got to thinking about that, and a couple of other things (including the inevitable comic book references that always haunt me), and here's what I came up with:

Wei Sha-Li, 64th Iron Fist

Kwai Jun-Fan, the sixty third Iron Fist was the first to travel to America.  He died in a small west Texas town in 1878.

His successor, Wei Sha-Li, was expressly forbidden to follow in those particular footsteps.  Until Pan Lo surfaced in the wicked city of San Francisco.

As Iron Fists go, Wei Sha-Li is typical.  Raised an orphan in the mystical city of K'un L'un.  Chosen after strenuous training he fought the great dragon Shou-Lao the Undying, and received the brand of the Iron Fist.  He is fairly new to the role and his powers will likely develop as he gains experience and learns to further unlock his Chi.

(Oh, and he's 28, and every Iron Fist in living memory died on his or her 33rd birthday.  It's kind of a thing.)

Origin: Defender
Allegiance: K'un-L'un and Its Allies
Virtue: Caregiver (Gain Willpower when you receive tangible proof you have helped another)
Vice: Expert (Spend Willpower to resist any opportunity to show off your prowess)

   Backing 2 (Ordo Ordem Potentias)
   Cipher 1
   Followers 2 (hastily gathered mob of lackeys)
   Nemesis 2 (Pan Lo?)

Inspiration 1
Facets: Reflective 1, Destructive 0, Intuitive 0

Willpower 7

Walk Speed: 10m
Run Speed: 17m
Sprint Speed: 75m

Initiative 9 (8 base +1 w/XP)

Bashing Soak: 3
Lethal Soak: 0

  The Iron Fist: Punch does Str+4 Bashing, Requires 1rd concentration, costs 1 WP.

   Lightning Reflexes: All Initiative die rolls are a minimum of 4.

   One-Man Army: Take no penalties for fighting multiple foes. Receive +1D for each additional foe after
   the First, max +4, hand to hand only.

   Untouchable: If begins the fight without a ranged weapon, opponents get a +1D penalty to hit with ranged

   A Single Bound: Triple all jumping and leaping results.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Brief Inspiration

Serpent prow on the Afric coast,
Doom on the Moorish town;
And this is the song the steersman sang
As the dragonship swept down:

I followed Asgrimm Snorri's son around the world and half-way back,
And 'scaped the hate of Galdjerhrun who sank our ship off Skagerack.
I lent my sword to Hrothgar then; his eyes were ice, his heart was hard;
He fell with half his weapon-men to our own kin at Mikligard.

And then for many a weary moon I labored at the galley's oar
Where men grow maddened by the rune of row-locks clacking ever more.
But I survived the reeking rack, the toil, the whips that burned and gashed,
The spiteful Greeks that scarred my back and trembled even while they lashed.

They sold me on the Eastern block; in silver coins their price was paid;
They girt me with a chain and lock, I laughed and they were sore afraid.
I toiled among the olive trees until a night of hot desire
Blew me a breath of outer seas and filled my veins with curious fire.

Then I arose and broke my chain and laughed to know that I was free,
And battered out my master's brain and fled and gained the open sea.
Beneath a copper sun adrift, I shunned the proa and the dhow,
Until I saw a sail uplift, and saw and knew the dragon prow.

Oh, East of sands and sunlit gulf, your blood is thin, your gods are few;
You could not break the Northern wolf and now the wolf has turned on you.
The fires that light the coasts of Spain fling shadows on the Eastern strand.
Master, your slave has come again with torch and axe in his right hand!

-- "Thor's Son," Robert E. Howard

Movie Review Time

I've had a truly terrible week at work.  So bad that the only cure was to watch massive amounts of technicolor violence.  Fortunately, "Conan the Barbarian" opened yesterday and I caught it (in 2D) this afternoon.

In short, it is not a good Robert E. Howard Conan movie.  It is, however, a nearly note perfect Roy Thomas "Savage Sword of Conan" movie, and I'm fine with that.

Jason Momoa absolutely embodies the role of Conan.  Anyone who complains he doesn't look like Conan is really saying he doesn't look like Arnie (who didn't look much like Conan for my money).  The rest of the cast do their jobs, which is to either hinder or enable our hero on his adventures.  I'm not sure it's a good thing, but it's definitely a "Conan" thing that I can't even tell you the names of the other characters.  There was Conan's Black Friend, and The Bad Guy, and The Bad Guy's Daughter, and the Bad Guy's Minions, and the Lust Interest/Object of the Bad Guy's Quest, and the Weasely Thief.

And honestly, I don't care.  If anything, that's one of the most appropriate to Howard bits in the film.  Yes, Conan's tale has a few noteworthy NPCs, but most of them tend to blend together, and I've read a hell of a lot of Howard (and "Savage Sword," which probably contributes to the blending as well).

Mostly, it's just the best Sword and Sorcery film I've seen in many a year.  It's fun.  It's loud and and full of gratuitous violence and T&A.  It's a throwback to the R-rated Barbarian films of the 80s that followed in the wake of the Arnie Conan, and that's fine by me.

Friday, August 19, 2011

It's A Placeholder, But It's A Damned Fine Placeholder

I missed yesterday.  I'm going to miss putting up any content today.  It's been that sort of week.

In the meantime, here's an inspirational image, courtesy of John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My Other Obsession. No, Wait, My Other, Other Obsession

I missed yesterday's update.  A heavy workload followed by a game night running late will do that.

Anyone who reads this can probably tell I'm obsessed with RPGs.  They can also probably surmise that I'm similarly obsessed with superhero comics.

But there's another layer to me.  I'm like an onion.  Or parfait.

Soccer, Football, Calcio, Futbol, The Beautiful Game.  I played it as a kid, I watch it obsessively as an adult.

And a few years ago, I got hooked on Fantasy (European) Football.  Every year, I sign up for my leagues, pore over statistics and transfer (trade) reports, pick my side, and tweak the lineups every week trying to maximize my points.

For the last few years, I've run the leagues over on RPGnet.  It's created an interesting little sub-community of fellow fanatics on both sides of the Pond and points south, east, and west.

I used to joke that Fantasy Sports were D&D for guys who beat up D&D players.  Irony.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tonight, I Challenge You!

I brought work home and had to deal with it until 10 PM, so I didn't really get a chance to come up with decent content for today.  So, here's the plan: I provide you, Gentle Reader, with the raw stats, rolled at random, and you come up with a name, Specialties, Qualities, Challenges, and an Origin.  The winner (chosen by me) gets...I don't know, something.  I'll make it something decent, I promise.

(If you don't know how to create a character in ICONS or don't have an actual powers or specialties list, use some of my past entries for reference or just wing it.  That's half the fun in my book.)

Also, thanks to the Origin rolled, you get to make some additional choices as follows:

I rolled Unearthly, which is kind of the Trifecta of awesome when it comes to origins, which yields two Origins, which came up Birthright and Gimmick.  Unearthly allows you to raise any two Attributes by 2 (each).  Birthright lets you either pick an additional power, or increase the level of an existing power by 2.  Finally Gimmick allows you to increase either Intellect, Awareness, or Willpower by 2.

So lots of choices.

Here's the raw data, hot off the random generator:


Prowess  4
Coordination  5
Strength  4
Intellect  8
Awareness  4
Willpower  8

Stamina  12
Determination  1

Specialties: SELECT 4 LEVELS

  Astral Projection 2
  Binding 5
  Invulnerability 5



Go for it!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Beware The Many-Angled Ones! Ia! Ia!

Back to ICONS today.  Today's character came out of the generator as-is. I love it when random factors create something coherent right out of the box.

Zhong Qian Shuai


Prowess  4
Coordination  6
Strength  4
Intellect  6
Awareness  4
Willpower  4

Stamina  8
Determination  3

  Science (Physics)

  Time Control 6
    Slow time (Super Speed)
    Freeze Time (Paralysis)
  Fast Attack 2

  Motivation : Protect Earth From The Many-Angled Ones

  Enemy : Chinese Government
  Social : No SAN Points Left

Point Total  37

A few months ago, folks in the west got a chuckle out of the Chinese government banning all stories involving time travel from television and movies shown in the People's Republic.  Officially, this was to preserve a sense of respect for China's history.  In fact, it's just the tip of a much larger iceberg.

Time Travel is real.  It's also insanely dangerous, not just for the people doing it, but for the world, and possibly this entire branch of reality.  The Chinese government learned this when a young scientist named Zhong Qian Shuai attempted to send himself back in time a total of twelve hours.  The ensuing chronal rift turned sixteen square miles of western Yunnan Province into a hellish wasteland, and Zhong was trapped in the middle of it.

When the Wei Xiong (China's official superteam) finally got the situation under control and rescued him, they found him changed.  Charged with tremendous powers, his mind was broken.  Whatever he saw in those hours befrore his rescue, it changed him.  He became obsessed with protecting the REALITY from what he referred to as the Many-Angled Ones.  Using his newfound powers, he escaped from the holding facility and the Wei Xiong and fled China.  Now, as the Chrononaut, he sets forth on his one-man crusade to protect reality from something out there.  Mostly, this consists of wrecking scientific experiments dealing with time travel, but he's not about stealing to further his own defense of all creation.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Let's Hunt Some Orc

Today was another session of the D&D 4e game I run at my house.  We haven't been able to get together for about six weeks due to various schedule conflicts (our last game ended up being a big "Wrath of Arshadalon" session).  Originally, I'd intended for this session to kick off a rather lengthy mini-campaign that would involve overland travel and actual conversations with NPCs beyond "Die, goblin scum!"  However, with two players leaving the group after today, one joining, and another out of town, I decided to hold off and run a side-adventure instead.

Fortunately, Wizards provided GMs in such straits with a very handy resource in the form of the Dungeon Delve book.  After reviewing the third level delve "Orc Stronghold," I decided it would work fine for our purposes and put it into play.  I introduced my son's character as the Huntsman of the noble hiring the PCs to clean out his keep and set them loose.

Speaking entirely as a shell-shocked DM and only barely as a somewhat proud father, I'd forgotten how devastating an archer ranger can be.  Particularly when said archer ranger's player rolls four crits in the course of a three encounter delve.  Seriously, the kid's dice were on fire.

All in all, it was a good session, with the players genuinely scared when they realized the final badguy (an 8th level Orc chieftain) had taken 78 points of damage and still wasn't bloodied.  At that point, their teamwork really gelled and they did a great job of finishing him off.

Pizza, the traditional foodstuff of the victorious dungeon crawler, was consumed.  Life is good.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Preparation Time

Tomorrow's D&D game (the one with no pornstars, but plenty of librarians, Mormons, and Army sergeants) will bid a fond farewell to two of the PCs.  Their players are moving to San Antonio for a couple of years, Lux the Gnome Monk and Gav the Half-Orc Barbarian will be missed.

In anticipation of their departure, I'll be adding a new PC to the table tomorrow in the form of Erevan, an Eladrin Ranger, played by my son.  Yes, I've decided he's ready to play with the grown-ups.  Tonight, we sat down and designed this walking engine of ranged death, with the boy making most of the key choices.

Erevan, level 3
Eladrin, Ranger
Build: Archer Ranger
Fighting Style: Archer Fighting Style
Ranger: Prime Shot

Str 11, Con 12, Dex 19, Int 12, Wis 14, Cha 10.


Str 11, Con 12, Dex 17, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 10.

AC: 17 Fort: 13 Reflex: 16 Will: 14
HP: 34 Surges: 7 Surge Value: 8

History +9, Nature +8, Stealth +10, Perception +8, Dungeoneering +8, Acrobatics +10

Arcana +4, Bluff +1, Diplomacy +1, Endurance +2, Heal +3, Insight +3, Intimidate +1, Religion +2, Streetwise +1, Thievery +5, Athletics +1

Level 1: Lethal Hunter
Level 2: Fey Escape


Ranger at-will 1: Careful Attack
Ranger at-will 1: Twin Strike
Ranger encounter 1: Skirmish Shot
Ranger daily 1: Hunt's End
Ranger utility 2: Root Understanding
Ranger encounter 3: Disruptive Strike

Adventurer's Kit, Leather Armor, Longsword, Deathsteel Longbow +1

I've asked him to come up with a backstory.  When/if he does, I'll share it here.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

New Character Called On Account Of Box Of Awesome

I was planning to roll up another ICONS character tonight.  But I happened by Nan's Comics and Games at lunch today, ostensibly to grab the last issue of Detective Comics, which I'd missed yesterday.  As it turned out, they've started getting in some of the stuff released at GenCon, which led to a rather abrupt impulse purchase.

I'm such a sucker for boxed sets.

Like it says right there on the box, that's the Shadowrun Runner's Toolkit.  Before I even got to the back cover copy, I noticed how heavy it is.  This thing is packed to the gills.  How packed?  Let's take a look.

First up is the obligatory GM screen:

GM screens seem to come in two flavors: lightweight and heavy-duty.  This one is definitely in the latter category, being mounted on heavy cardboard. It won't stop a bullet, but it definitely can hold up to a breeze or a sneeze.

Next in the box were five sourcebooks:

"On The Run" is a classic SR adventure, updated for SR20th.
"PACKS" stands for Pre-Generated Auxiliary Character Kit System, a new set of modular character creation rules.  Creating a character in Shadowrun is not a quick process.  There's lots of points to fiddle with, things to buy, and it's only slightly less complex than the HERO System.  PACKS takes a page from HERO's Champions Powers, providing modular character components, already built, with the cost pre-determined.

"Anatomy of a Shadowrun" is an example of gameplay, with fiction in one column and mechanics in the other.  Nothing I haven't seen plenty of times.  Except this example is THIRTY PAGES LONG and covers the entire course of a difficult run.  Color me impressed.

"Contacts, Adventures, Sprawl Sites" is just that: a book full of NPC archetypes, adventure seeds and suggestions, and useful locales for your own runs.

Finally, "Compiled Tables" is a 48 page book of tables from SR20th, Arsenal, Augmentation, Street Magic, and Unwired.  A game data goldmine.

But that's not all...

Seriously, how much would you pay?
It also includes a set of color rules summary cards, each printed on an 8.5"x11" sheet of plasticized cardstock (for extra durability).  Each card covers one important aspect of the game (Character Creation, Defense, Matrix Combat, Astral Combat, Compiling, Autonomous Drone Combat, Spellcasting, Indirect Combat Spells, Melee Combat, Ranged Combat, Summoning, and Banishing).  Along with that, you also get full-color maps of each of the locations from the Sprawls booklet above.  The maps are on heavy glossy stock, not as durable as the summary cards, but not light weight.

And finally, there are these fun bonus items:

A Seattle skyline poster and a Shadowrun sticker.  Whee!

And the price?  $39.99.  Seriously.  Considering all the stuff in here, it's an absolute bargain.  Between this and Lone Wolf coming out with a Shadowrun module for Hero Lab, I may have to get my armored duster out of storage, crank up the Soundgarden, and stage a raid on Aztechnology.

The only downside?  Trying to make room for it next to all the other SR stuff my wife and I have accumulated over the years.

I should note that at least a third of this stuff is hers. Shadowrun is the only game she'll GM.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cold As Ice

Hey, kids! It's another ICONS character!

I decided to tie tonight's set of random power in with a character out of The Villainomicon.

Isenkrigerin, aka Lady Fimbulwinter

Prowess  4
Coordination  3
Strength  9
Intellect  2
Awareness  4
Willpower  5

Stamina  14
Determination  *

  Power Expert (Elemental Control)

  Elemental Control 6 (Cold)
  Blast 5 (Blasting)
  Life Support 8 (Cold, Breathing, Eating, Pathogens, Pressure, Sleeping, Toxins, Vacuum)

  Motivation : To Capture or Kill Rorek
  The Glacier That Walks!

  Enemy : Rorek the Ice Elf
  Vulnerable to Heat
  Personality of a Glacier

Point Total  44

When Rorek the Ice Elf (The Villainomicon, p. 92) escaped from Jotunheim, it was a grave insult to his former masters.  That he now bears the Ice Crystal Rune Sword just compounds scorn upon shame.  Hrothmir, his former master could not let this stand.  After assorted trolls, wargs, and goblins failed to capture his wayward thrall, he set about his greatest creation.  Binding a splinter from the Casket of Ancient Winters into a body carved from the deepest, coldest, purest glacial ice, he gave a semblance of life to his Isenkrigerin (Ice Warrior), and sent her forth to Midgard (Earth) to bring him back, dead or alive.

While the Isenkriegerin (dubbed "Lady Fimbulwinter" by the Olympians in their first conflict) is a relentless, remorseless foe, she (technically an it, but it looks like a woman) is not particularly bright, nor a particularly good investigator.  As a result, her first attempt to find Rorek resulted in what Meridian still refers to as The Great Summer Blizzard.  Six inches of snow fell on the Fourth of July, and stayed on the ground for three days.

Since then, she has returned on multiple occasions, often with additional minions provided by Hrothmir, but sometime teamed up with other villains whose goals may only tangentially intersect with her own.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

It's Late And It Was A Long Day

So I will simply repeat what has become a familiar refrain: WoTC's "Wrath of Arshadalon" is just about the perfect way to kill a few hours when you have to cancel a game session.  The replay value is outstanding.  Tonight's game felt like we were on the edge of disaster all the way through to the end.  We ended up with the entire party below half HP and out of healing surges, but we beat the bastards.

Monday, August 8, 2011


Taking a few days off to post other things did me some good, but tonight, it's back to ICONS for a good old Smilin' Stan and Jovial Jack sort of bad guy.

Professor Victor Vladislav

Prowess  4
Coordination  5
Strength  9
Intellect  2
Awareness  5
Willpower  5

Stamina  14
Determination  *

  Electronics Expert

  Paralysis 5
  Interface 5  - Can't Retrieve Information, But Can Animate Machines
  Transit 7  - Via Conductive Surfaces

  Being of Solid Electricity

  Easily Manipulated

Point Total  49

Professor Victor Vladislav was well on his way to becoming the next Tesla.  His theories of electrical transmission were nothing short of brilliant, but also more than a little unconventional.  Spurned in the Soviet Union, he defected to the USA and found himself a valued research fellow at EUREKA.  Everything seemed to be going well for him, right up to the moment a Commie saboteur cross-wired his latest experiment.  Victor threw the switch, there was a massive explosion, and all the lights in the county went out.

Save one.

A massive, brightly glowing man-shaped light that stood in Victor Vladislav's place.  None of the Professor's reason remained, only pure electric rage.  The monster left via the nearest electrical outlet, only to reappear a few miles away.  He began tearing through town, followed by a ragtag group of animated cars and construction equipment.  If not for the timely intervention of the Olympians, the Deco City would have been leveled by his fury.

Since then, Zzzyrge (as a local radio station dubbed him) has escaped custody a number of times.  While his/its intellect no longer matches its previous levels, Zzzyrge has learned to temper his rage somewhat, making him a more effective opponent.  But he is easily misled, and often used, willingly or not, as muscle by smarter villains.

(Yeah, I kind of "reskinned" Interface to turn it into a machine control power.  Zzyrge doesn't really have the smarts to do the other thing, and this seemed more appropriate.  One of the strength of ICONS is how easy it is to do such a thing.)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Wherein I Am Happy To Be Beaten By An Eleven Year Old

So, as promised, I played another game of Star Wars Minis with The Boy this morning.  He's no stranger to gaming, needless to say, but he's hardly sophisticated.  Last night's game largely boiled down to his normal tactic (take a bunch of droids, including the biggest coolest weird droid he can find in the oversized figures box).  Anticipating this, I decided to teach him a lesson about predictability and put together a team largely optimized for taking out droids (lots of ion guns).  Even then, he managed to hang on until we each only had one piece left and I got a little lucky on initiative at the end.

Afterward, we talked about how I knew he was going to pick that side, mainly because we'd gotten a new crazy looking droid (something called a "Junk Golem") in one of the boosters I'd bought, so I knew that's what he was going to do.

So, this morning, he surprised me.  First, he wanted to play the good guys.  He never wants to do that.

Figuring something was up, and not feeling like doing a lot of math, I put together a little team consisting of Darth Sidious, Asajj Ventriss, a Sith Apprentice, and an Imperial Knight (if you don't know what all of these things are, ask an eleven year old).

He hit me with 150 points of Clone Troopers, including two commanders and a host of heavy weapons guys.  He outnumbered me 3 to one in terms of figures, but mine were all high defense with lots of hit points, so I figured I could whittle him down.

I figured wrong.

Someone figured out that masses of Clone Troopers were perfect for using the Combined Fire rules.  He also figured out how to use them effectively so that a +6 to-hit 13 point Trooper was suddenly a +14 to-hit on my 18-20 Defense Sith.  And just to add insult to injury, he made sure that the Trooper actually making the attacks had Double Attack, so he was getting off two shots at +14 per attack.  Every time he got a visual on one of my figures, he immediately started shooting.  The two lesser figures went down fast.  Sidious got cornered and seriously chewed up before I could get him out of the way, and while Ventriss took down three or four of his dudes, they still got to her.  Darth Wrinkles managed to take a few down with Force Lightning before they finished him off, but the outcome was never in doubt from his first shot. 

Victory to the heroic Clones, and I couldn't be prouder.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Meanwhile, In a Galaxy Far, Far Away...

I'm taking a little break from posting ICONS stuff. I'll get back to it, but I'm finding other things to blather about, so why not?

Today was all about this:

There are many pictures, but my phone isn't cooperating
The Houston Health Museum is hosting a traveling Star Wars exhibit.  Yeah, I know, what's Star Wars got to do with health?  But on the other hand, who cares, because we got to see tons of props and costumes and models from all six films up close and personal.

Actually, there were some cool things tying in the medical technology of Star Wars to modern medicine and discussion of current robotics technology and materials and some cool hands-on robotics and mag-lev demonstrations for the kids.

But it was really about going and seeing lots of Star Wars stuff up close.

A few years ago, I went to a similar exhibit for The Lord of the Rings trilogy and I was struck by the sheer levels of craftsmanship: you couldn't see it on screen, but every square inch of Sauron's armour was etched and inscribed.  Swords had mottos and names engraved on them in Sindarin or Dwarven runes.  Even the extras' costumes had elaborate bits of decoration.

For Star Wars, not so much.  Which isn't to say the costume bits are bad.  Just that up close, you can see that they were largely designed to be seen from the distance of...say a movie screen to your seat in the theater.  Still, standing right next to Han Solo's outfit from RotJ is pretty awesome.

For me, the real joy was looking at the models and seeing a simultaneous intricacy and economy of effort.  On the model of the Star Destroyer "Devastator," much of the detailing on the nose had been added with a pencil and straight-edge.  I'm guessing those areas weren't going to show up in the angles they were shooting the model, so the lines only sort of needed to show up.  I saw similar empty spaces on a model R2-D2 on the back of a toy-scale landspeeder.  Where the eye can't see, detail wasn't added.

A lot of my games are like that.  Unless there's a need for depth, I don't create it.  I focus on the bits the players can and will interact with and only worry about the stuff behind the horizon if it looks like they're actually heading that way.

(When I bought a t-shirt from the gift shop, I noticed that the guy running the register was reading the WFB Skaven book.  A brief moment of Gamers-Not-At-Gen-Con solidarity ensued.)

Anyway, after the museum (and tacos), we had to stop at Target.  Finding myself in a Star Wars mood*, I drifted down the toy aisles and found a few more lonely boxes of WoTC's Star Wars Minis boxes, now marked down to $3.99 a pop.  Yeah, I grabbed them all to add to our horde. Opening and organizing them led me to wonder about the extend of our current accumulation, so I broke out Excel and went through all of the cards for all of the sets.

Three hundred and twenty eight thirty seven (I found some that weren't in our storage boxes. I suspect there are a few more in similar straits).  That's the current total of all figures.  By my count, we have 209 or 210 individual figure types at the moment (two of the General Grievous figures have identical cards and minis, but came from different sets).  Of course, that's a drop in the bucket compared to all the figures Wizards put out, but it's still pretty respectable, and certainly enough figures for RPG purposes.  Though I really need to get at least one more 501st Clone Trooper.  Unless we have four, their cool teamwork power won't work.

I suspect we may have to play out a battle or two before the weekend's over.

*OK, in all honesty, I've been in a Star Wars mood for at least the past week.  No, longer than that.  Pretty much, since the middle of last month, at least in a low-key sort of way.  I bought myself the first two seasons of "Clone Wars" for my birthday a few weeks ago. On Sunday, I happened by my local Half-Price Books and found a pile of WEG Star Wars stuff at ridiculously low prices.  And just this morning, I completed an internet transaction with Chris of A Rust Monster Ate My Sword to purchase a hefty lot of SW Minis and Micro-Machines from him.  And I'm completely pumped about the X-Wing game that Fantasy Flight Games announced at Gen Con.  The museum excursion was just icing on the cake.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Convention Musing

I am not at Gen Con this year (or, as the harried Jimmy Johns worker referred to it last year, "The Gen Con").  Back in December, when I was starting to plan the trip, my wife lost her job, and while her prospects were good and the severance package better, the overall uncertainty made it unfeasible.  This was for the best, since I'm about 99% sure if I had planned to go, my vacation request would have been rejected outright.  My employer just completed a new, 44,000 square foot building, and we're moving into it in early September.  As I work in IT, I am deeply involved in the process.  So, no Gen Con for me.

Of course, the internet and the magic of living in the future helps lessen the sting a bit.  I've gotten regular updates and photos from my friends, and I'm watching the ENnies Twitter feed to see if any of my friends won this year.  But I miss the chance to break out the dice with new folks and try new things.  Granted, I don't do a lot of gaming at Gen Con; I spend far more time socializing, shopping, and people-watching, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy actually sitting down at the table with a bunch of strangers with a better than average chance of coming away from the experience on far better terms.

One of the joys I get from convention gaming is the memorable one-liner.  I don't know if it's because a convention game is largely a unique experience, or whether it's the sense of liberation that comes from a one-shot game, or what, exactly, but I've found that a disproportionate number of great gaming one liners have come from one-shots and convention games.  Here are a few of my personal faves:

Me: Of course, this game exists in an alternate universe where super-scientists all have gorgeous girlfriends.
Player 1: Ric Ocasek being the perfect example.
Player 2: Yeah, but Ric Ocasek isn't an actual scientist.
Me: Band member! scientist! There's no difference!
Player 1: Do you mean Dr. Ric Ocasek, godfather of genetic engineering?

Slayers slay, Watchers WATCH.

Oi! I 'it it wi' me cricket bat! (This was the player's answer to everything throughout the entire adventure.  It was also completely in character.)

(GM to a PC who also happens to be a vampire) Unfortunately, the burning truck you're currently standing on top of is running on the edge of a very steep drop off, directly above a village that is having its annual stake sharpening festival.

And my personal favorite, though it's not one I witnessed myself.

GM running a "Venture Brothers" Game:  Hey, you guys are supposed to be 21 and 24, right?  You're being awful quiet.
21:  Jawas could totally destroy Ewoks!
24: Yeah, underneath those hoods, they're all spikes and rage!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Bandwagon Jumping

Folks have been posting pictures of their dice all over the gameblogosphere, and who am I to buck a perfectly cromulent trend?

That's not all of them, by any mean.  There are plenty stowed away in game boxes throughout the house, but it is most of them.

At the far left is my current set of "Go Dice," the ones I use all the time, along with the black suede dice bag my brother gave me for xmas in 1980.  I've had many sets of "Go Dice" over the years, but generally, they are transparent and green.  Also in the bag is a stainless steel d20, an opaque green d20 I got from Steve Kenson when I played DC Adventures with him at GenCon last year, and a pair of d10s that came out of the old Pacesetter edition of Chill.

Next is a set of red Gamescience dice I purchased from The Colonel himself.

The enormous d20 was originally purchased to be a gearshift knob, but I never managed to put that plan into action (I was afraid of splitting it).  Just above it in the picture is a bunch of old school Gamescience d20s from back when they were numbered from 0-9 twice.  I suspect I got them from various Chaosium games, as they didn't need to go higher than 9 and used to use GS dice in their boxed sets.

South of the big d20 is a bag of Fudge dice.  The last time we played a FATE/FUDGE based game with my Tuesday group, I brought them, more than enough sets to supply the table and no one else wanted to use them.

Up by the edge of the keyboard are three tubes of Ubiquity dice, used for Hollow Earth Expedition and All For One: Regime Diabolique.  They're clever.

Moving on is a big pile of mixed polyhedrals I've accumulated over the years and keep handy for when I'm running a game and someone needs dice.  A couple of the dice my blog is named after are in there, but not all: a couple went missing and I gave one of my pink d20s to Wil Wheaton at GenCon last year.

And finally, a mondo pile of d6s.  Because you can't play the HERO System for umpteen years without accumulating a mountain of cubes.  I particularly like the clear cube with three tiny d6s in it.  I use that when I play Champions for skill and to-hit rolls.

Like I said, that's most, but not all of them.  Apart from the missing old TSR dice, I can't find a bag of green jade Crystal Caste d10s.  I also can't seem to find the bag full of black d10s I bought a while back.  I'd better find them since we're playing Adventure next week.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

To Me, My X-Men!

(And by "My X-Men," I mean my favorite line-up of the X-Men, the team that made me a fan back in the day.)

Scott "Slim" Summers

Prowess  5
Coordination  6
Strength  4
Intellect  5
Awareness  6
Willpower  6

Stamina  10
Determination  5

  Pilot Expert
  Mental Resistance
  Power Master (Blast)

  Blast 8 (Blasting)

  Motivation : Responsibility
  "The Ability To Juggle Spacial Geometry In His Head"
  Epithet : Leader-Man


  No Control Over Optic Blasts Without Ruby Quartz Lenses
  Enemy : Magneto
  Personal : Grieving Over The Death Of Phoenix
  Social: Mutant

Point Total  47

Cyclops is the most experienced of the X-Men and he has developed a variety of stunts with his optic blasts, bouncing them off surfaces and widening the beam in order to affect more targets at once.  His Determination should be used for Stunts to reflect these tricks.

Peter Nikolaevitch Rasputin

Prowess  4
Coordination  4
Strength  5
Intellect  3
Awareness  3
Willpower  5

Stamina  10
Determination  4

  Martial Arts

  Alternate Form 9 (Solid)
  Invulnerability 7  - (Only when transformed)

  "Bozhe Moi!"
  Fastball Special
  Loves Kitty

  Bad Luck
  Enemy : Magneto
  Social : Mutant

Point Total  41

Kitty Pryde

Prowess  3
Coordination  4
Strength  2
Intellect  6
Awareness  4
Willpower  3

Stamina  5
Determination  4

  Computers Master

  Phasing 8
  Affliction 5  - (Only Electronics, Only While Phasing Through Them)

  Motivation : Learn To Use Her Powers
  Connections : Lockheed
  Loves Colossus

  Social : Mutant
  Personal : Adolescent
  Enemy : Magneto

Point Total  38

Kurt Wagner

Prowess  5
Coordination  8
Strength  3
Intellect  4
Awareness  5
Willpower  5

Stamina  8
Determination  1

  Acrobatics Expert
  Weapons (Blades)

  Teleportation 6
  Extra Body Parts 1 (Tail (Fast Attack))
  Wall Crawling 7

  Catchphrase : BAMF!
  Motivation : Adventure
  Girlfriend (Amanda Sefton - Witch)

  Startling Appearance (Fuzzy Blue Elf)
  Enemy : Magneto

Point Total  51

Ororo Munroe

Prowess  5
Coordination  6
Strength  4
Intellect  4
Awareness  5
Willpower  5

Stamina  9
Determination  2

  Sleight of Hand
  Aerial Combat

  Elemental Control 8
  Flight 4

  The X-Men Are Her Family
  Level Headed
  Raised As A Thief

  Social : Mutant
  Enemy : Magneto

Point Total  44


Prowess  7
Coordination  6
Strength  5
Intellect  3
Awareness  9
Willpower  7

Stamina  12
Determination  1

  Weapons Expert (Claws)

  Strike 6  - Claws & Skeleton (Does Bashing Or Slashing)
  Regeneration 10

  I'm The Best I Am At What I Do.  But What I Do Isn't Very Nice
  Weapon X
  Connections : Clan Yashida
  Fastball Special

  Social : Mutant
  Personal : Anti-Social
  Enemy : Magneto
  No Memory Of His Past

Point Total  57

Hopefully, this will make up for my missing an entry yesterday. :)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


No real content today, I'm afraid.  My wife's out of town on business and the only way I could make the Tuesday game was to drive straight home from work, pick up my son from day care, and then rush the both of us back into Houston so I could play and he could spend half the evening playing with his iPod and the other half watching us take down the son of Juiblex and Zuggtmoy.

Tomorrow, I'll do something special to make up for it.  I promise.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Avast Ye Lubbers! Not!

Petr Kuyt

Prowess  3
Coordination  4
Strength  3
Intellect  5
Awareness  5
Willpower  4

Stamina  7
Determination  *

  Computers Expert
  Power (Elemental Control)

  Elemental Control Device 5 (Darkness)
  Extra Body Parts Device 3 (Claws (Strike))

  Catchphrase : "Information Should Be Free!"
  Connections : Hacker Underground

  Social : Anarchist
  Enemy : The Black Hoods

Point Total  35

Petr Kuyt comes from a long line of pirates and scofflaws.  His great-great-great-great-grandfather Dutch Jackie Kukt was hanged as a pirate in the West Indies.  The ensuing generations were barely better.  In Petr's case, his inclinations for piracy had less to do with physical goods and much more to do with information.  Petr grew up on the internet, learning the ways of hackers and off-shore data havens.  One day, he "accidentally" stumbled across the plans and shipping manifests for an experimental suit that collected and manipulated the mysterious Dark Energy that composes much of the physical universe.  Changing things so that the suit and plans showed up on his doorstep was child's play.  Figuring out how to use it took a bit more time, but once he worked it out, he took to the night skies as the Reaver, the pirate of the information age!

There was just one unfortunate downside.  It turned out the suit he stole had been previously hijacked by either the Black Hoods, or someone with enough pull to set the Black Hoods on him. Now, whenever he strikes, there's about a 50/50 chance some of their goons will turn up as well.